By Jamie Harrison
If you have so much as dipped your toe into today’s dating waters, you know that noncommittal relationships are an absolute thing. From booty calls and friends-with-benefits to now “situationships,” companionship without commitment has become a mainstay in the dating landscape. If you’re a millennial, the term situationship may sound rather familiar to you. It’s an interesting intersection where two people are more than friends but wouldn’t consider themselves a couple. A situationship is a non-exclusive romantic arrangement that may include physical intimacy, emotional connection and even mental stimulation.
“Situationships are becoming more and more popular,” explained Shamyra Howard, licensed clinical social worker and dating expert. “People used to find out they were in situationships by happenstance, but now many people are choosing this ‘relationship-no-relationship’ style.”
In some instances, being in an undefined relationship isn’t always a bad thing. Relieving yourself from the pressure of labeling the relationship can be freeing and ideal in certain circumstances– whether you just got out of a bad breakup, have an insanely busy schedule, or you just want to keep your options open.
“I think people get into situationships for a number of reasons,” said licensed marriage and family therapist, Kiaundra Jackson. “They could simply be filling a void or feel that they’re coming up on that biological clock and getting pressured from society, family and friends. It’s just a way to say you’re not alone.”
Jackson added that, just like any other relationship, communication is still key, even when navigating the we’re-together-but-not-really-together territory.
“Nobody wants to ask the question, ‘What are we?’, because they feel that they will run the other person away — that’s where the disadvantage happens,” Jackson explained. “You can clearly define the relationship by saying ‘Hey, you don’t have to call me every day, we don’t have to go on dates, but when I’m horny, you can pull up at the house,” she laughed. “When you’re that candid with the other person, it can help provide clarity on what you really want.”
If one person ends up wanting more and the other person doesn’t however, your no-strings-attached situation has the potential to become complicated and messy. When emotions are unmatched and the future of your relationship is unknown, it can lead to a world of disappointment, confusion and even anxiety – causing your emotional wellbeing to take a hit.
“Situationships are extremely uncertain because you don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. There aren’t any defined roles or expectations and you both have the capacity and free will to do whatever you want,” Jackson said. “If the other person decides that the situation no longer serves them, and it sends you into a downward spiral, I think that it’s time to do an internal check-in. Ask yourself, ‘Do I value myself enough to not let this circumstance shake me?’ It all boils down to your self-love, self-worth and self-esteem.”
All relationships, and especially situationships, require self-care.
“The parties involved in a situationship are more likely to be inconsistent in each other’s lives and won’t rely on a deeper connection,” Howard cautioned. “Worrying about the future is not uncommon for a person in this predicament, and that can often lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.”
In order to sustain a successful situationship and, more importantly, a healthy state of mind, both therapists agreed that boundaries and authenticity are the most critical elements.
“Creating and maintaining clear boundaries and being honest with yourself is key to protecting your mental wellbeing,” Howard said. “Due to the isolating and unreliable nature of unofficial relationships, it’s recommended to maintain secure connections with others and recognize when it’s time to disconnect.”
Jackson explained that situationships are inherently supposed to be fun and liberating. If your interactions with the other person begin to have a negative effect on you, then it may be time to pivot. If any level of your physical, sexual or mental health becomes compromised and things become more stressful, that’s a sign that it’s not a healthy space to be in.
“I always say that anything that takes away from your peace, your joy or your happiness is a clear indicator that something isn’t right. It may be a situation where you need to honor your inner feelings and either pull back or exit the situationship completely,” Jackson explained. “Everyone goes through seasons and it may be time for you to tap into something more serious and that’s okay. Your only responsibility is to operate in your authentic truth in all times.”